MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/16 Feb) — Peace agreements and laws implemented in the country should be written in Filipino, the national language, participants of the 1st National Language Summit said in a resolution passed on Saturday, the end of the conference that began Thursday.
The resolution said government, especially concerned departments and agencies, should heed the call, adding these should be written with equivalent text in the language of indigenous peoples around the country.
The conference, dubbed by Roberto Añonuevo, director general of the Komisyon ng Wikang Filipino (KWF) as the “first ever serious summit” on the national language, convened leaders of Lumads (indigenous peoples) to discuss the theme “Wika ng Kapayapaan” (Language of Peace).
The participants also called on the national and local governments to conduct massive consultations with the Lumads in the country “using language understood by all” before starting development projects like infrastructure and mining projects, within their ancestral domains.
Datu Migketay Victorino Saway, from the Talaandig tribe, told MindaNews that peace agreements should be translated into Filipino but added that government must also recognize the concepts of peace among indigenous peoples and use these to help explain the peace process to them.
Añonuevo told MindaNews last Thursday at the opening of the summit that the peace agreement between the national government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front should be written in the language understood by all “because the peace process affects not only Mindanao, but the rest of the country.”
He noted that deliberations of the Constitutional Commission during the drafting of the 1987 Philippine Constitution were done mostly in English and whatever debate on the content and interpretation have to be resolved in the English language instead of Filipino.
In his presentation at the end of the summit, Añonuevo said discussions during the three-day conference suggested the need to write peace agreements in Filipino, not in English.
The resolution also proposed that Filipino should be used at the barangay level but the national language should not be dominated by Tagalog only but with words from the languages of ethnic groups in the country.
The summit participants also sought the attention of appropriate government agencies on the need to come up with a program to address the challenges of discrimination and intolerance towards indigenous peoples, to “..use Filipino in that program with the help of other languages from the different ethnic groups to help explain to the people of the Philippines the different issues.”
The government should also create communication mechanism for the use of Filipino language and other Philippine languages as provided by Executive Order No. 335, which provides for the use of Filipino in official transactions, communication, and correspondence by the government.
Senator Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino, in his speech at the closing rites Saturday vowed to support the cause to develop the Filipino language. He said he is pushing for an anti-discrimination bill that would include protection of indigenous peoples.
The summit resolution, drafted by Añonuevo, also sought for sufficient budget from the government “so problems, aspirations, and suggestions of the ethnic groups will be addressed especially those related to ancestral domain, history, culture, livelihood, and justice.”
Representatives from different tribes took part in panel discussions and workshops on different topics including language and peace.
The Lumad participants took advantage of the open forum by airing their sentiments on their problems beyond the language issue such as ancestral domain, exploitation, lack of consultation among others.
Bae Alma Binayao of the Manobo tribe in Maramag, Bukidnon shared their problems on the legal battle over their ancestral domain occupied by Central Mindanao University.
Binayao acknowledged the summit will not address their problems but government agencies present like the Department of Interior and Local Government should help them.
She added that the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) has helped them with their ordeal but the KWF, too, should help them along with other government agencies.
Añonuevo vowed in closing remarks that KWF will call the attention of the halls of power in Malacanang, Congress, and the Judiciary on the issues they raised.
“You can expect that all the concerns and problems you expressed here will reach President Benigno Aquino III,” he added.
A representative from the Ivatans of Batanes rated the summit as “excellent” in its attempt to help evolve the national language. He suggested that the summit should be done every three to five years.
“But in between there should be cultural exchanges to foster understanding and unity,” he added.
Datu Jemuel Perino of the Bukidnon Umayamnon Tribe Kapoonan To Mga Datu (BUKDA) told MindaNews it is important to dig into the concepts of peace among the indigenous peoples.
But he said he hopes the summit is not only something that KWF did “for compliance.”
He said the sentiments raised by indigenous peoples at the summit should not fall on deaf ears. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)